Summary: Word of Salvation: Thief on the Cross. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email:

Reading: Luke chapter 23 verses 32-43.


• When evangelist John Wesley (1703-1791) was returning home from a service one night,

• He was robbed.

• The thief must have been disappointed;

• Because his victim had only a little money and some Christian literature.

• As the bandit was leaving, Wesley called out,

• “Stop! I have something more to give you.”

• The surprised robber paused.

• And John Wesley told him,

“You may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here’s something to remember: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!’“

• The thief hurried away,

• And Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit.

• Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service;

• When he was approached by a stranger.

• What a surprise to learn that this visitor,

• Now a believer in Christ and a successful businessman,

• Was the one who had robbed him years before!

• “I owe it all to you,” said the transformed man.

• “Oh no, my friend,” Wesley exclaimed,

• “Not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!”


• Is the incident found in Luke chapter 23:

• Consider the amazing aspects of this man's conversion.

(1). Amazing Situation (verse 32-33).

32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left.

• When they crucified Jesus Christ;

• They put Him between two thieves.

• They could have put the two thieves together.

• In fact, that would have been the natural thing to do.

• We get the impression that these two thieves were partners in crime,

• Ill: Barabus gang (not crucified for theft but for rebellion – stole to fund their movement).

Instead of putting these two friends together (which would seem more natural):

• They put the Jesus between them;

• Central with the thieves either side.

• Remember that the cross was not only the work of man;

• But also at work was the providence of God.

• The word "providence" means "foreknowledge" or "seeing beforehand."

• God sees beforehand. He knows that which will happen and acts accordingly.

• Quote: “There were no accidents in the life of the Lord Jesus-only appointments.”

• It was not accidental that the Lord Jesus was between these two thieves.

It was important for Jesus to be on that middle cross for several reasons:


• Such was the agony of crucifixion that many victims often had their tongues cut out;

• To stop them constantly screaming out in pain.

• Other victims spent their last bit of energy cursing & swearing at the crowd;

• Or at those who were responsible for their situation.

Quote Seneca the Roman Stoic:

“The victims cursed heaven and earth, all mankind, the hour of their birth, their judges and executioners, and they spat in fury at those who looked on.

Sometimes the horror was so great that the victims had their tongues cut out, or their mouths gagged, to silence the desperate torment of their cries”.

In contrast instead of curses from his lips, the two thieves heard Jesus pray:

• Both of the thieves could hear Him pray,

• "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (verse 34).

• To dying guilty men about to face their maker;

• They had the chance to hear some good news in their desperate situation.

• As they listened to Jesus pray, there was hope; there was light in their darkness!

• Here is one who forgives and who prays that others might be forgiven.


• Whenever these two friends called back and forth to each other,

• It meant they had to look at Jesus Christ!

• And as they looked at him,

• They had to see that title-and that title which told them who He is.

• When you study the harmony of the Gospels, you find that this title read:

• "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."

• It was written in three languages,

• And the thieves probably knew at least two of those languages.

• That sign bearing the title was written by Pilate.

• And it has been described as “The first gospel tract ever written.”

Think of what it read:

• He is ‘Jesus’;

• Which means "Saviour."

• He is ‘Jesus of Nazareth’.

• He came from a despised and a rejected place, identified with the outcasts.

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